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Private Sector Stands Ready to Help Build Hong Kong into an I&T Hub

The future that innovation and technology (I&T) promises to provide us is exciting. We can look forward to a better quality of life, convenience, efficiency and, not least, a new turbo-charged engine of economic growth. The question is: can Hong Kong retool the economy and workforce in the race to develop into an I&T hub?

We have been talking about how we can achieve this goal for years. Unfortunately, besides talking, not much else has happened. Consequently, Hong Kong has been slipping further behind other cities in terms of technology adoption, deployment and development.

Thankfully, the new Administration is as eager as we are to develop a clear blueprint to drive I&T forward. In her first Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced she would personally chair a high-level, inter-departmental Steering Committee on Innovation and Technology to examine and steer measures for I&T development as well as Smart City projects.

On the Chamber’s business missions outside of Hong Kong, such as to Shenzhen, Taipei and Barcelona, among other cities, members were often impressed by the relatively simple technologies, like RFiD, or GPS, that were being used to make citizens’ lives more convenient. For example, many cities now have real time information informing people of when the next bus will arrive, or telling drivers exactly where a parking space is available. These have been in use for many years, and do not require reinventing the wheel to implement. As a very ICT savvy city, it is hard to understand why we still do not have such basic services here.

In Hong Kong, we sometimes have the mindset that we need to build things from the ground up. This is unfortunate because we possess the key fundamentals that lend themselves to developing into a smart city and nurturing I&T businesses. To break out of this mindset, the Government has drawn up bold targets for itself in eight key areas, not least investing more in research and development to 1.5% of GDP over the next five years. Perhaps even more importantly, is that the Government will review existing legislations and regulations to remove any obsoletes slowing the I&T’s development.

Businesses have the will and means to develop new economic drivers, but too often overly cumbersome or outdated laws can end up stunting the development of new initiatives. This is why the Chamber has been urging for a systematic approach to assessing the usefulness of rules and regulations, whether current or in the pipeline.

Of course we need proper checks and balances in place, but we have to be careful that conventional approaches to lawmaking help rather than hinder development. The Government now recognizes that I&T activities require unconventional solutions in order to grow, and we will be sharing our views on how existing challenges can be addressed.

At the Chamber’s recent CEO Manpower Conference, speakers and members of the audience were optimistic about how innovation and technology can improve our lives and also our productivity. One problem that was repeated over and over again, however, was the issue of addressing our acute labour shortage. Companies already have great difficulty recruiting the right skills to grow their existing businesses, so finding the talent needed to ensure the successful development of I&T in Hong Kong will require going beyond our current labour pool confines. The Chief Executive has outlined possible solutions to our labour challenges, and we hope significantly more progress can be made on this crucial issue, and quickly.

To help businesses better plan to support and capitalize on the opportunities that I&T will germinate, the business sector looks forward to working with the Government on how this can best be achieved. We stand ready to share our expertise, reasoning and concerns, and we hope that the Government can share with us its views and reasoning. For example, if we can have a clear picture of why biomedicine, artificial intelligence, fintech and smart city development have been selected as the four principal areas for taking forward I&T development in Hong Kong, then private sector investment, which will be drivers of these initiatives to form clusters, could be targeted to maximize these opportunities.

Posted on 2017/12/08